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What the Tech Industry Can Teach Us About Accounting and Finance Hiring

Across every industry, CFOs and managers alike need little reminder that the shrinking pool of available labor for finance and accounting roles has required adjustments to hiring strategies based on knowledge of specific sub-markets. The extent of these adjustments can vary a lot from industry to industry.

Or even within a given industry.

That’s certainly the case in the fast-paced world of high tech, a sector known for disrupting standards as much as creating them.

To get an idea of the wide variety of adjustments to the accounting and finance labor market that tech has implemented, we talked to Aston Carter Senior Recruiter Chandler Moore. Her experience placing talent in the Boston area has seen its share of high-tech hiring thanks to feeder schools like MIT and Harvard.

High-Variation Roles and Skills

In a fast-evolving sector like tech — where a company is viewed as “established” after only two years of existence, and valuations can fluctuate wildly from month to month— requirements for accounting and finance positions vary on a case by case basis.

Demands placed upon finance and accounting talent in the tech sector depend on the specific stage of development and needs of each company. If a company is privately held or venture-backed, says Moore, it may need accounting staff with pre-IPO and auditing skills, or financial analysts with the data skills or programming knowledge to run advanced revenue projections. Royalty or licensing experience may also be in high demand, depending on the nature of the product or service provided.

However, even in the topsy-turvy world of high-tech, accounting is accounting, and that means all companies are beholden to the great equalizer: revenue recognition. According to Moore, "Whether tech companies are hiring project-based or long-term, consultancy or staff-level, financial analysts or accountants, they all need revenue recognition experience. It’s all contract-based and revenue-based accounting."

Of course, how each company recognizes revenue also varies based on their contracts. “For example,” says Moore, "you might see the specific metrics as percent project complete, or by monthly billing, or however that's agreed to, and that’s where the specific experience of each candidate can make the biggest difference."

Nimble Adjustments to The Labor Market

In a sector like tech, where the entire market environment can change as rapidly as the pace of innovation, most companies have no choice but to be nimble. That operating philosophy prepares tech companies to adjust to conditions in the current tight labor market, even as they search for candidates to fulfill finance and accounting roles, skills and requirements that are specific enough to divide an already small overall talent pool.

Tech’s flexibility in adjusting to the labor market has manifested in various ways, depending on needs, budgets and timing.

Companies looking for long-term accountants at the staff level, Moore says, “are open to hiring based on potential and culture fit, and looking to train candidates with prior experience in industries with similar accounting practices, such as services.”

Those with more high-level or time sensitive project-based needs, according to Moore, may source candidates outside of their area. “They may fly in consultants, paying a premium just to ensure proper, immediate adherence to specific regulations and needs,” she adds.

And while inherent flexibility is more rule than exception in tech — where companies adjust to the market based on their own needs — there’s another reason companies in this sector are poised to weather a tight labor market especially well: their supply isn’t as limited as other industries.

“Everybody seems to be really interested in working for the tech industry,” says Moore.

The Value of a Knowledgeable Partner

While the available finance and accounting labor pool may seem more manageable in the tech sector than elsewhere due to the industry’s built-in flexibility and attractiveness to candidates, that doesn’t mean hiring is a breeze. Relying on a knowledgeable partner who can reconcile company needs and candidate skills is still important.

One area of tech accounting and finance hiring where a knowledgeable staffing partner can add value comes in candidate pre-screening. For example, while plenty of finance and accounting talent is drawn to the tech sector, not all candidates may be motivated by the right factors. Says Moore, “Since it’s an attractive sector, it’s that much more important to find candidates whose interest in the tech industry is based on a genuine hunger to learn and contribute to innovation, more than a desire to soak up the perks people tend to associate with working at places like Google.”

Due to the nature of the industry—where fortunes rise and fall on momentary shifts in the marketization of proprietary algorithms—the specific activities or mission of each company within the tech sector can often seem opaque to an outside eye. This is true for finance and accounting candidates as well, who might need more information than is available in the relatively vague company descriptions that are the norm in the tech sector.

“That's why it's really important that we get out to meet with clients,” says Moore, “so we can understand the environment that candidates will be expected to perform in, and get the specific knowledge of scope and expectations that only comes from meeting face to face with the hiring manager.”

A knowledgeable partner also has the ability to dive deeper into the available labor pool than most tech companies can. Says Moore, “Some of the top candidates in our market are only to be found through networking and direct sourcing, and it takes time and effort to build credibility among candidates with specific industry experience who are in turn willing to connect you to other people with similar experience. Access is key.”

If your finance and accounting staffing partner isn’t putting in the extra effort to develop specialized knowledge and build the right candidate network to help you negotiate the current labor environment, contact Aston Carter now to find out how to match your resourcing needs with available talent.